Working in the field of locating utilities can be a thankless job, fraught with challenges, and sometimes, sheer absurdities. I was reading through 2 different Reddit threads (1, 2) where locators provided a glimpse into the everyday struggles and occasional joys of the profession and so figured I share a few here. These stories, full of exasperation and humor, also offer valuable lessons about communication, patience, and the realities of working with a diverse clientele.

The Forgotten Locate

u/kevinsomnia shares a common yet frustrating scenario: "My favorite is the classic 'we forgot to call in this locate but we want to dig so now it's an emergency.'" This story highlights a significant issue in the industry: poor planning and last-minute scrambles. The lesson here is the importance of proactive communication and thorough preparation. Emergencies can often be avoided with proper planning and adherence to protocols, which ultimately saves time, money, and potential hazards.

The Overzealous Ticket

In another anecdote, u/PutsPaintOnTheGround recounts dealing with a grading contractor who hit a gas service and, in a panic, called in a massive 2000'x2000' locate request. The contractor covered phases already developed, impacting residents and complicating the locator's job. "He fought with me but ended up calling in a cancellation and having his foreman white line out just phase 3 and call a corrected ticket in." This story underscores the necessity for clear, precise communication and realistic expectations. Over-requesting locates not only strains resources but can also delay critical work. It is essential for contractors to understand the scope of their projects and communicate effectively with locators to ensure safety and efficiency.

The Impossible Request

u/Syonoq provides a tale of sheer absurdity involving a demand to locate utilities across an entire airport on short notice. "I’m like, dude, we physically can’t locate AN ENTIRE AIRPORT within a reasonable amount of time." This story illustrates the critical need for understanding the scope and feasibility of locate requests. Unrealistic demands can lead to frustration and inefficiency. This narrative also highlights the importance of having knowledgeable personnel managing such requests. The lack of field experience by the person who called in the request led to unnecessary stress and confusion.

Tracking Payments Through Locates

In another dimension of misuse, u/Aggravating-Expert91 mentions contractors who use the 811 service to track payments for jobs already completed. These contractors "keep calling" long after the work is done, simply because they haven’t received payment. This practice not only clogs the system but also reflects a broader issue of reliance on external systems to manage internal processes. It serves as a reminder of the need for proper project management and financial tracking within contracting firms.

Encounters in the Field

u/Gunterbrau shares a more bizarre side of the job: "I've seen quite a few crazy naked homeless folks. Can't unsee that. Don't do meth!" This comment, while jarring, speaks to the unpredictable nature of fieldwork. Locators often work in varied environments and must be prepared for anything. It's a stark reminder of the societal issues that can intersect with day-to-day operations in the field, urging empathy and awareness.

Unreasonable Expectations

u/Timely_Resist_7644 recounts an unreasonable request to locate utilities along a 22-mile stretch of road in just a few days. "I explain that her request is unreasonable... 'Well then you better get to working.'" This interaction not only highlights the unrealistic expectations placed on locators but also emphasizes the need for respectful communication. Negotiating with clients to set realistic deadlines is crucial for maintaining a safe and efficient work environment.

A Sweet Reward

Amidst the chaos, there are moments of appreciation. u/UrbanJuggernaut shares a heartwarming story: "An older lady gave me a dozen homemade cookies for helping her with her extremely easy landscaping ticket, so it ain't all bad!" This simple act of kindness serves as a reminder that the work of locators is appreciated, even if not always verbally acknowledged. Small gestures of gratitude can significantly boost morale and provide a refreshing contrast to the more challenging aspects of the job.


Through these stories, we see the diverse challenges locators face, from dealing with impractical requests and miscommunications to encountering societal issues and experiencing moments of unexpected gratitude. Each anecdote offers a lesson in patience, the importance of clear communication, and the value of proper planning. But I think we can also choose to view them as opportunities; opportunities to educate, opportunities to input data into your ticket management system and opportunities to learn. For those in the field, these stories are a testament to their resilience and adaptability. For those outside the field, they provide a window into the complexities of a job that often goes unnoticed but is crucial for the safety and functionality of our infrastructure. Feel free to share some of your stories below...

Give those reddit threads a read through too; there's lots of humour in there too:

  1. What are your dumbest contractor/ locate requestor stories?
  2. Crazy People Stories


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